An easy-to-use and affordable wireless device that uses four inertial sensors to detect lameness in horses is a step closer now that researchers have completed a preliminary study.
The system has proven useful in identifying lameness and scoring severity, Christian Mihaita Krikan and fellow researchers report in the journal. sensors.
The device, called the 0.1 claudication detector, uses inertial sensors strapped to the bottom on all ends to detect claudication.
The study team, with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca in Romania, said the results obtained in their study convinced them that further validation and standardization of the 0.1 lameness detector is warranted.
The end result is likely to be an affordable, easy-to-use, readily available device that, primarily as a screening tool, can support equine veterinarians in their routine assessments of horse walking and lameness performance.
The study team said that while the classic claudication examination is based on observation, with some frequency and reliability, clinicians are unable to pick up small changes in movement patterns due to the relatively low image-taking frequency of the human eye.
Technological efforts in this field have focused on the use of various systems, such as force plates, optical motion capture systems, and inertial measurement units.
Constant force plates are often recommended as the most accurate system, and are the gold standard for assessing objective lameness in horses, providing accurate and reliable results with high sensitivity and specificity.
However, the costs and complexity of the device, the need for controlled conditions and multiple environmental constraints, as well as the need to sample and evaluate each limb separately, are significant obstacles to conventional veterinary practices using these panels.
Optical motion capture systems can also be expensive and often require lab conditions.
The study team’s paper described their efforts to design, develop and test an original device system, as an aid to diagnosing lameness in field conditions.
The 0.1 Lameness Detection System consists of four identical devices attached to adjustable, flexible straps to the front of each horse evaluated. Hardware transmits data for processing and interpretation by software.
To interfere as little as possible with normal walking, four light and small components were attached to each device: a rechargeable battery, an accelerometer, a microcontroller panel, and a Bluetooth device. The computer program, called Lameness Detector 0.1, was specially written and is open source. The biggest piece in every device is the rechargeable battery.
Ten horses were used in the study, including six mares and four stallions. They all have a different degree of lameness either in one forefoot or in one hind leg.
The devices recorded data for five consecutive steps of a walk, with data sent from three axes of each leg for analysis.
The study team reported that the device proved useful in identifying lameness and recording severity, including the lowest self-identified lameness.
The data indicated identical dynamics for voice legs, but there are significant differences between voice and lame legs on the X axis. For both the fore and hind limbs, acceleration values increased for the healthy limbs and decreased for the lame limbs.
Previous studies have also indicated that peak vertical force and lunge are of significant relevance in assessing claudication severity, they note.
While discussing their work, the researchers said that the term “claudication” is not limited to describing obvious lameness. It also includes slight changes in gait, or even a decrease in ability or desire to perform.
They said lameness is a pathological condition. A clinical problem that needs timely diagnosis, from its first and lowest signs, and appropriate treatment to avoid further deterioration and permanent impairment of the animal’s movement.
To describe the gait of horses with conformational defects, training or shoe errors, and uneven muscle growth, different terms are sometimes used, such as uneven, coarse, irregular or abnormal gait, uneven gait, or unbalanced movement.
“These animals have been implicitly considered lame as well, pending a more accurate or accurate diagnosis to prove this.”
Equine medicine has continually improved over the centuries to find the best lameness screening procedures possible.
The paradox of this situation is currently occurring, with the potential for highly sensitive objective gait analysis emerging in horses when veterinary medicine is faced with unexpected anxiety and a potential need to redefine equine lameness to avoid overdiagnosis.
Thus, incorporating gait analysis technology into equine clinical practice is an ongoing process that requires close monitoring.
Paradoxically, the increased sensitivity in detecting slight gait asymmetry that may be difficult to notice in the examination of classic lameness of the human eye is a strength and weakness of modern devices used for objective gait analysis.
Although this sensitivity, accuracy, and lack of bias is specifically pursued, to allow an accurate diagnosis at certain ‘threshold values’, the corresponding concern is that if the asymmetry is too mild to detect, its clinical relevance cannot be safely certified. .
“Given all these aspects, our Leness Detector 0.1 is designed as a screening tool to improve self-assessment of lameness.”
Used at the beginning of a classic observation, it is intended to increase the practitioner’s attention for a more thorough and detailed examination when data indicates a problem.
The authors emphasized that the inertial sensor-based assay could not fully replace clinical self-assessment, but could support it by enhancing and verifying the accuracy and reliability of subjective findings.
As the American Association of Equine Practitioners notes, diagnosing and treating lameness is a science and an art. It requires a solid understanding of all the structures involved in equine movement on the one hand, and needs to adapt in response to changing conditions, horse types, uses, personalities, and owner needs.
“In this way, all devices that assist veterinary activity are valuable in relation to it, without replacing the knowledge, experience and even talent needed to correctly interpret quantitative results.”
The study team consisted of Crecan, Iancu Adrian Morar, Alexandru Florin Lupsan, Calin Cosmin Repciuc, Mirela Alexandra Rus and Cosmin Petru Pestean.
Krikan, C.M.; Murar, A.; Le Pen, A. F.; Repciuc, C. C.; Ross, MA; Pestean, CP Development of a new approach to detecting equine lameness based on inertial sensors: a preliminary study. Sensors 2022, 22, 7082. https://doi.org/10.3390/s22187082
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